The Problems Encountered in Writing a Dissertation

Doctoral students must submit their dissertation before graduating.
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A dissertation is an academic paper that demonstrates a candidate’s competency to carry out an independent research. After completing the classroom coursework and passing all the examinations in a doctorate program, you must submit a dissertation, which is usually the last hurdle before receiving your Ph.D. Most dissertations consist of five parts -- the introduction, literature review, methodology, findings and conclusions, discussions and recommendations. Most students encounter various problems while writing this critical academic paper.

1 Formulating a Suitable Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is one of the most critical parts of the dissertation because it states the purpose of your research. According to Purdue's Online Writing Lab, a thesis statement must be debatable, which means that it must attract opposing opinions. Your thesis should not be based on a statement that is accepted across the board. For example, "Crime is bad for the economy" is not a debatable theory because all studies agree that it is detrimental. An example of a debatable thesis is, "Third world countries should allocate a quarter of their revenue toward fighting crime to improve their economy." Students sometimes choose a broad thesis statement, which makes it hard to find evidence to support it. According to Purdue, narrowing down your thesis statement makes it easier to defend your arguments. An example of a broad thesis is, "Internet use has led to the rise of crime." It will be hard to decide what to include due to the various types of crime, such as gang violence, cyber crime, fraud and identity theft among others. ‘"Emergence of social networking has led to an increase in cyber bullying among teenagers," is a narrower, more manageable thesis.

2 Finding Relevant Literature

The literature review section gives a comprehensive analysis of materials relating to the problem you are investigating. It may discuss theories and published data and provide historical assessment and current views relating to the research problem. It is usually a long section that may take 15 to 30 pages. Most students may make the mistake of using too many direct quotes, writing short summaries of articles, or expressing their own opinions in this section, which prevents the student from showcasing their analytical skills. Remember that the literature review gives you a chance to provide evidence to support your arguments, as well as to demonstrate your expertise on the research problem. Also, it is mandatory to provide citations for all material you use in this section.

3 Finding Data

Another problem most students face is finding relevant data to support their arguments. You can either use primary data or secondary data for your dissertation. If you plan to utilize primary data, you may collect it using questionnaires, phone interviews or focus groups, which takes time and requires money. It is important to ensure that you come up with the right sample size to improve the accuracy of your study. Secondary data involves using statistics from another source, such as government agencies, non-governmental organizations and telecommunication companies. Nothing is more disheartening that realizing that you do not have the relevant data to support your arguments after reaching the methodology section. To avoid this, ensure that all the data you plan to use is available from the secondary sources. If you plan on collecting data, take time to formulate the right questionnaire and sample size and to conduct your search.

4 Poor Planning and Time Management

In most instances, universities give students adequate time to write their dissertation. To most students, this seems like a long period of time, and they fail to plan their time properly. However, time passes quickly, and you might experience some unexpected delays from your supervisors. You must submit a research proposal for your supervisors to approve before they allow you to begin writing. You will also submit your first draft and other subsequent outlines to your supervisors, who may request some changes before allowing you to proceed. It is imperative to come up with a timeline that estimates the length of each task and to include these inevitable delays in your plan. Include start and completion dates for each task in your diary and revise them regularly to accommodate any delays.

Maria OCadiz has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in Education. She is a former university professor, curriculum facilitator and teacher.